The Figure Eight Pools are a group of naturally formed rockpools located in Sydney’s Royal National Park and are a natural phenomenon you really need to experience for yourself. Unfortunately, these pools have been in the news a lot lately for all the wrong reasons. In addition to this being a difficult walk that a lot of people don’t properly prepare for, if you try to access the pools at the wrong time of day when the tide is in, there is a chance you could be severely injured by the waves and require an expensive rescue operation.
I’ve put together a guide for you so you know what to expect, what to pack, how to find them and most importantly, how to enjoy the pools safely!
1. What to Wear and Pack
I was really surprised by some of the outfits I saw my fellow hikers wearing. They seriously did not anticipate what an intense hike this was! There were girls in dresses and thongs, and guys in slip-on canvas shoes and speedos.
So what should you wear? Pretend you’re going to the gym for a workout – I’m talking exercise top and shorts and proper sneakers with good grip (or hiking boots, if you have them). Feel free to wear your swimmers underneath but personally I hate being in wet swimmers for long, so I packed mine along with a plastic bag.
It’s important to be prepared for this walk as there are no toilets or places to eat along the way, and there is only limited mobile phone reception in the park.
- A backpack
- Swimmers and towel
- Water and snacks
- A hat
- Basic first aid kit – band aids, antiseptic, tissues
- Printed instructions of how to get to the pools
2. When to Plan Your Visit
It’s imperative you visit the Figure 8 Pools at low tide. Before you even leave the house, check the tides. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the tide times, you also need to ensure conditions are calm and the surf is flat. Check the Bureau of Meteorology for the latest weather report.
3. Driving to the Pools
The Figure 8 Pools are located in the Royal National Park, around a 1 hour drive from central Sydney. Enter “Garawarra Farm Carpark” in Google Maps to plan your drive there.
Side note – if you want to fuel up before your big walk, I highly suggest stopping at Paul’s Famous Hamburgers, 12A Princes Hwy, Sylvania. Oh so tasty!
The drive is pretty easy until you enter the National Park, then the road becomes quite steep and windy, followed by a kilometre or so of dirt driving. Take it slow and give way to your fellow drivers coming the other way – the road can get quite narrow in parts.
4. The Hike
The hike to the Figure 8 Pools is graded as hard. It can take up to 3 hours return, and is steep, rocky and slippery in parts. I would only suggest walkers with a good level of fitness attempt this.
Once you’ve arrived in Garawarra Carpark, look for the walking track with a sign saying “Coast Walk”. Follow this track all the way to the bottom of the hill. It’s pretty steep and slippery, so take your time.
Eventually the trees will part and you will get a gorgeous view of Burning Palms Beach. See that second headland? That’s where the Figure 8 Pools are.
Keep walking and you will see the track fork. Don’t turn left, keep going straight ahead. Soon the path meanders right and will lead you to Burning Palms Beach.
Once you get to the beach, turn right and walk along the shore towards the first headland. How do you get across? Why you go rock scrambling, ofcourse (see why you need to visit this place at low tide?)
5. Rock Scrambling
I’m not going to lie, I seriously underestimated what rock scrambling involved. These rocks are big, slippery and go on and on. Take your time with this part, it’s the most painful section of the hike but one of the most dangerous. You really don’t want to slip on these suckers.
Once you’ve made it past the first headland, keep walking, following by some more rock scrambling – and you’re there!
6. Figure 8 Pools Safety
Once you’ve (finally!) made it to the Figure 8 Pools, you still need to be careful. Don’t foolishly rush into Instagramming everything in sight, as even at low tide, waves can still crash across the pools during dangerous surf conditions. Also the rock surface is covered in slippery lichens and seaweed – people were slipping and sliding all over the place. Tread carefully!
7. Getting back
This final point is one that I got OH SO WRONG when I did this hike. We were a bit late in arriving at the pools which worked out well from a photography perspective – the dusk light was perfect for photos and there were barely any people left. But we didn’t leave enough daylight time to hike back and ended up climbing up the steep track back to Garrawarra Farm in the pitch black, guided only by our mobile phone lights. Fail.
Please leave extra time for your return journey and don’t be an idiot like me! I definitely thought I was going to be murdered by some Blair Witch/Wolf Creek-type situation.
Stay safe and have fun!